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Exiled Libyan dissident returns to Benghazi after 30 years

By Leinz Vales, CNN
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Exile: 'Fantastic' to be back in Libya
  • "It's a fantasy land, "Alice in Wonderland," he says
  • The college professor is an adviser to the rebel opposition
  • The rebels are fighting against Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi's forces

(CNN) -- An exiled Libyan dissident recently returned to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi after 30 years to fight on the opposition side.

Mansour El-Kikhia, a Texas college professor, called his return a "new adventure."

"It's a fantasy land. "Alice in Wonderland," "Waiting for Godot," it's unbelievable." El-Kikhia told "In The Arena" host Eliot Spitzer. "This has taught me to look at life in a different way."

El-Kikhia is an adviser to the rebel opposition against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

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  • Libya
  • Benghazi
  • Moammar Gadhafi

He said the rebels are battling uncertainty. Recent reports say rebels are questioning the commitment of western countries such as the United States, France and Italy to the opposition fight.

"There this constant question going on in their minds." El-Kikhia said. "Will Gadhafi come back? Will the allies let us down? Will they help us?"

On Wednesday, the United Kingdom, France and Italy announced they sent military advisers to aid Libyan rebels. Obama on Thursday approved the use of armed drones in Libya.

El-Kikhia said the rebels are divided into two military groups.

"We have the actual military itself. Gen. Abdul Fattah Younis, whom I personally think is very, very capable," he said. "He (is) working very hard to train young men to actually take over, to be able to defend the city."

El-Kikhia said the second group of rebels at times can be a problem for the opposition.

"You have the other group, the insurgents. They're fixated on removing Gadhafi. They're more of a hindrance than help. But they keep on moving forward toward Tripoli and they're being pushed back," El-Kikhia said.

Spitzer pressed El-Kikhia to explain in detail what the rebels needed from U.S. forces.

When asked whether they needed recognition and weapons, he said America's role shouldn't be limited to force. He said he wants to see the U.S. advising Libyans on how to sustain its fragile democracy.

"(Libya) is like a child. This is a new child that just opened their eyes and they need as much help as they can," he said. "Help guide the Libyans. It doesn't require total military force. It requires administration, some help (and) advice."

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